It feels like we’ve been down this road before, and that’s cause we have, but last June, the Mets announced, in recognition of the team’s 50th Anniversary, their All-Time Team. Twelve players and a manager were named to this all-time grouping, and the roster looked a lot like the roster that was named in 2002 as the club’s All-Amazin’ Team in honor of their 40th Anniversary.
But there were interesting differences, arguably in deference to time. A decade of play on the field will do that. There’s also the likelihood that when the team names an all-time roster for their 75th Anniversary a quarter of a century from now, many of the same names might also find their way onto that team as well.
Let the debates/arguing begin!
Where the All-Amazin’ Team was named based on fan voting, this year’s All-Timers were named from a six-man panel appointed by the club. The judges included: broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, NY Daily News sportswriters Mike Lupica, and John Harper (and you’ll recall that it was Harper who co-wrote that “epic” about the Jeff Torborg era Mets – “The Worst Team Money Can Buy”), plus NY Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, and longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble.
And they compiled the following team:
MANAGER: In 2002, the fans selected Gil Hodges as their all-time manager. The new panel went for Davey Johnson.
Hard to argue either way. Both won Championships. Both led their clubs for a significant amount of time. Both had a hard time repeating, but Davey did get his teams to a second NLCS, so maybe that tipped the scale.
In a Post column announcing the team, Vaccaro admitted his vote went to Hodges. “All due respect to Davey, but Hodges took a team that had never finished higher than ninth. The ’86 Mets were fun. The ’69 Mets were forever.”
FIRST BASE: Same then as now. In both instances, Keith Hernandez was the overwhelming choice. No argument here. Vaccaro: “The ’86 Mets never happen if the 1983 trade for Hernandez doesn’t happen.”
And unless Ike Davis proves to be an all-timer, banging out hundreds of homers, and leading this or some other future Mets club to a ring, the 75th Anniversary team likely will name Mex once more.
SECOND BASE: Another repeat. Welcome back to the all-timers, Edgardo Alfonzo. Again, hard to argue, although former second-sackers such as Al Weis, Wally Backman, and Tim Teufel were the right guys at the right time for their squads.
And names such as Carlos Baerga and Roberto Alomar will never find their way onto a Mets all-time anything positive, even if Sandy’s kid does own that shiny plaque from Cooperstown.
THIRD BASE: Here’s where the sands of time felt the earth move. David Wright, who has evolved to be at or near the top of nearly every offensive category in Mets history, was properly named to his hot corner, supplanting Howard Johnson.
And Joe Foy wasn’t even considered!
SHORTSTOP: Here’s where sentiment could have played a role. Jose Reyes was named ahead of longtime Mets stalwart Bud Harrelson, who was properly named in ‘02. Both produced dramatically for their franchise. And you can make the case that Buddy owns a ring, and Jose-Jose-Jose does not, but Reyes was the catalyst for this team through last year, and even though he has gone on to greener money pastures, he certainly was a game-changer, when healthy, here in New York.
But no one will give a second thought if you’d prefer to keep No. 3 in the six hole.
LEFT FIELD: History prevailed as Cleon Jones was named to the new all-time list, but surprise, he wasn’t part of the All-Amazin’ Team. Two centerfielders and a rightfielder – Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Darryl Strawberry were the outfielders a decade ago, but this year’s crowning only retained Straw.
You could also make a case for original leftfielder Frank Thomas, who led the ’62 club with 34 home runs, or Dave Kingman, who was one-dimensional – but what a dimension! – or maybe Kevin McReynolds, who came close to being named MVP in 1988, but in truth, Jones is a great choice (he led the club with a .340 mark in ’69), and a major factor in the first Championship run.
And what’s Al Luplow been up to lately?
CENTERFIELD: Here you could debate Mookie or Lenny to get the nod again, but the 2012 panel went for Carlos Beltran. His 2011 castoff trade aside, Beltran also was a major force for the team when healthy. He still shares the franchise record for home runs in a season with Mike Piazza (41 in ’06), shares the team mark for extra-base hits in a season (80 in ’06), is the leader in runs scored (127 in ’06), owns the sixth highest RBI total for a season, and finds his name on other Top Ten lists.
Yes, he couldn’t lift his bat off his shoulder against his current teammate, Adam Wainright, and seems to have discovered the fountain of youth in St. Louis, but Beltran gets the call here.
Another way to look at it. Tommie Agee, Lenny and Mookie have rings. Carlos does not.
RIGHTFIELD: Ah, the strawberry patch again was harvested with that tall skinny – and powerful – right fielder, Darryl Strawberry. It’ll take a lot of production, and likely a ring or two, to uproot the Straw man from this honor, now, as ten years ago, and likely 25 years from now.
In fairness, Rusty Staub, Ron Swoboda, and Art Shamsky deserve honorable mentions for their contributions to Met lore, but the team’s all-time leader in home runs (252) – Straw Man – still takes ‘em deep.
CATCHER: Now here’s where the debates can get sticky. Piazza was named again, as he was ten years ago, and with valid credentials. But longtime fans still have a fondness for Jerry Grote, about whom it was said that if he and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench were on the same team, Grote would catch, and Bench would play third!
And the guy who said that was Bench’s Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson!
And then there’s Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who we lost early in 2012 to brain cancer. Without Carter, ’86 doesn’t happen either, as well as hundreds of other great Mets moments.
This is a tough one, kids. We love Piazza, but we love Kid Carter and Grote as well. Go with your instinct on this one.
RIGHTHANDED: Do we even have to say it? Of course, Tom Seaver. Then, now, and maybe forever. He’ll always be the Franchise, Tom Terrific, and some future righthander is going to have to best Seaver’s 198 wins as a Met, his contributions to a Championship and another World Series run, and maybe then, he still won’t even be considered.
LEFTHANDED: Again, it’s Jerry Koosman then and now. Koos is third in wins (140, behind Seaver and Dwight Gooden), second in innings pitched (2,545), fifth in ERA (3.09), third in strikeouts (1,799), second in shutouts (26…guess who’s first? No. 41, of course), second to Seaver again in quality starts, and first in pickoffs (45).
Koos also is first in losses (137), second in hits allowed (2,281…yup, to Seaver in the first slot), second to 41 in walks allowed(847-820), and second to you-know-who in home runs allowed (212-187), but shhhh…..we won’t belabor these numbers.
RIGHTHANDED RELIEVER: Here, Roger McDowell got the pick, then and now (cause Doug Sisk wasn’t around for the voting, no doubt). McDowell was the right half of Davey Johnson’s two-headed closer in the mid-80s, along with Jesse Orosco, and between the two of them, teams couldn’t beat both. And Roger Mac is one of the funniest humans in the baseball universe.
LEFTHANDED RELIEVER: Here’s where it gets touchy again. Tug McGraw got the consensus vote, and deservedly so, but in 2002, it was Go-Johnny-Go Johnny Franco who received the vote of the people, and deservedly so. What to do, what to do?
Franco likely will own the team saves mark for quite some time (276), but McGraw got us to ’69. And what about Jesse? (see Righthanded reliever).
Again, ignore the numbers, go with your heart. The All-Time Team is yours for all-time, until the next time they name a new team…for all-time!